Baby colic

Signs that your baby has colic, tips for coping with a colicky baby and possible treatment options and cures.
Every baby cries, but babies who cry for more than three hours a day for more than three days a week may have colic. A baby with colic will cry uncontrollably, despite being healthy and well fed. Colic is a harmless condition, although it can be very upsetting for parents or carers.

About one fifth of babies get colic, and it equally affects boys and girls, first born children and those born later. In general, it appears at around two to four weeks of age and can last for three months, or longer in some cases.

The cause of colic is unknown, however there are ways to help calm your baby down. In the past colic was thought to be related to the digestive system. However, although painful abdominal gas may contribute to colic, there is little evidence to prove it's due to gastrointestinal problems.

Another possible cause of colic is a combination of the baby's temperament and an immature nervous system. The baby's temperament may make him or her highly sensitive to the environment, and he or she may react to normal stimulation or changes to the environment by crying. Because the baby's nervous system is immature, he or she is unable to regulate crying once it starts.

The main symptom of colic is continuous crying for long periods of time. Although this crying can occur at any time, it is usually worse in the evening. Although colic is not thought to be due to pain, a baby with colic may look uncomfortable or appear to be in pain. Babies may lift their head, draw their legs up to their tummy, become red in the face and pass wind. Some babies refuse to eat. Difficulty falling and staying asleep is also common.

Normally, colic is not a serious condition. Research shows that babies with colic continue to eat and gain weight normally, despite the crying. The main problem with the condition is the stress and anxiety it creates within the home. Parents and other family members may find it difficult to cope with the constant crying, so it's important to have support and to take a break now and then.

Colic does not need medical treatment. However, any parent or carer who is worried about their baby's crying may want to get advice from a healthcare professional to make sure there is no serious problem. Before visiting a doctor, all other possible causes of crying should be eliminated. These include, hunger, tiredness, lack of contact, temperature or pain.

If your baby is diagnosed with colic there are many things parents can do to help the baby, and themselves. Though there is no single medicine or proven cure for colic, there are several measures that may help. Different babies are comforted by different measures, and parents usually need to try various methods to see what works.
  • Parents who bottle-feed their babies may want to try a different formula.
  • Parents who breastfeed their babies should continue to do so as weaning the baby from breast milk may make the colic worse.
  • Some women find that certain foods in their diet seem to make colic worse and they may find that cutting these foods out helps. These might include vegetables such as cabbage, broccoli, cauliflower, sprouts, parsnips, onions, or beans, garlic, apricots, melon, spicy foods, caffeine and alcohol. By reintroducing foods gradually, you may be able to identify which food, if any, is causing the problem.
  • If there is a family history of milk sugar (lactose) intolerance, breastfeeding mothers could try eliminating cows milk from their diet. Sometimes babies are not able to digest lactose well, but this improves as they get older.
  • Some parents who bottle-feed their baby try changing over to soya-based formula, but there is no evidence that this is effective at reducing colic.
  • If your baby seems to have a lot of wind, make sure he or she is burped frequently. Babies who are bottle-fed may swallow air from the bottle so try feeding the baby in a different position, or using a bottle and teat designed to reduce the amount of air the baby swallows during a feed. These include curved bottles, bottles with a collapsible bag inside or bottles with a vent.
To soothe babies with colic, the following techniques may be helpful:
  • carry the baby in a front sling or back pack
  • wrap him or her snugly in a blanket (this is called swaddling)


  • keep the baby moving in a baby swing


  • place him or her near continuous noise or vibrations from household appliances like the dishwasher, vacuum cleaner or washer-dryer


  • take him or her for a car ride or a walk outside


  • give him or her a dummy to suck on


  • give him or her tummy or back rubs


  • take a shower together as the warm water may be comforting
There are no medicines used to treat colic. However there are things which may help to relieve abdominal symptoms. It may be worth trying "colic drops" or "gripe water", which are available without a prescription.

Having a colicky baby can be very stressful, frustrating and challenging for any parent, particularly if it is the first child. Babies may pick up on anxiety around them, and this may make colic worse. It's important for the parents or carer to have time to themselves. Parents who feel overwhelmed should take a break. Ask a partner or friend to take over for a while, even for an hour or two.

Chat or Ask a Question:

If you have a question about this article or something else, visit our friendly forums & ask the AskBaby community.

Chat about baby colic with our friendly community...

Your Comments:

We'd love to hear your comments on this article...

Login to add your comment:

Email: Password:
Not yet a member? Join thousands of other parents and parents-to-be... Sign Up Now!
Forgot your
Password?

hi, my baby is almost a month an for the last 2 weeks she appears to have gripe, i have read that babies with gripe cries a lot but my baby doesnt cry, al she does is she keeps groaning, it mostly happens between 2 to 5 am,she does tend to curl up with feet beneath her, could you tell me if the constant groaning is a sign of something more serious or can this be classified as gripe
by nesa 20th Jun 2013, 3:33pm
I breastfed and had problems regardless. Thankfully I have experience of something that worked immediately for my daughter: BIOGAIA probiotic drops.

With 11 years between my first born and my baby girl, I was surprised that she was experiencing colic. Why didn't my first born experience this? Am I doing something wrong?? I would characterize her colic as "middle of the road" (not as bad as my pediatrician's personal experience with her own son, which she described as hour upon hour of actual screaming each day) ...yet it was consistent and disconcerting enough not to be considered "mild" either. My daughter had daily afternoon/evenings of inconsolable crying spells. It was so SAD not to be able to help her and so frustrating that I didn't know how to help her. I just wanted someone to tell me how to fix it.

It was so confusing...what the heck was causing this?? I am a conscientious vegan, so I made sure not to eat or drink anything that might affect her health (no sugar, caffeine, alcohol and I cut out all gaseous foods from my diet once the colic hit). My pediatrician gave me the disappointing answer that it just "happens" to some kids, that they probably get "overstimulated" and need to release stress. (Supporting this theory is the "Happiest Baby on the Block" DVD from our library system which I really believe works...I just couldn't get it to work for me. Seeing this method work...in action...right on the DVD, is amazing! I would highly recommend mothers google this method to read about it. It may work for you. But reading about it and actually seeing it done are 2 different things. You should really try to see the DVD because it turned out I was doing it wrong in the beginning. For example, He really shushes loudly. )

Anyway...I didn't know if that was really what was going on with my daughter; getting "overstimulated". We were pretty sure it was PAIN that she was experiencing...kicking her legs and crying. So, in desperation my husband and I decided to try BIOGAIA probiotic drops to œhelp establish intestinal floraÃThey are expensive ($29 a bottle + shipping...yikes!!) It really was an act of desperation to try them and I feel sorry for mothers who likely will not be able to afford such an expense. We live in Hawaii and the drops are supposed to be refrigerated, but we ordered 2 bottles anyway knowing that they would be un-refrigerated for a few days on their way here.

Within 2 days we saw changes in her stools and her temperament and within 1 week she was a COMPLETELY DIFFERENT BABY. She was HAPPY!!!!!! Finally we were able to get to know our baby girl. She was so sweet and inquisitive but we didn't get to know her until her pain was gone. It was absolutely worth the money we spent. I have a hard time remembering how long we kept up the drops, but I think we bought 2 bottles and used them until they ran out.

These drops saved us and I actually carry the info sheet that comes in the box in my purse to share with other mothers if I see a colicky baby in public. (No...I am not a spokesperson or salesman for the drops and I have absolutely no connection with the makers....I am just SO thankful to have found something that worked that I feel actually feel responsible to share what worked.) That was actually 2 years ago and I promised myself I would go back to the forums, like this one, I initially searched in desperation to find answers to post my experience (and success!) so I could possibly help other mothers.

In conclusion, from my experience, I would guess that some babies don't have the intestinal flora to properly digest milk (and I nursed exclusively). These drops establish healthy flora right away until your baby's own system does the job itself. Since I look at things holistically, I can't help but wonder why this happens. For ex. my first pregnancy I omitted ALL simple sugars, honey, and dried fruit and my baby had no colic...but this pregnancy I was lax and had sugar while pregnant. Could this have possibly messed up her flora??? I don't know. But I do know that if I get pregnant again I will do everything I can, including omitting sugar completely from my body while my baby is forming and growing inside me just so I know that I am doing everything I can.

I sure hope my experience is helpful to someone out there. Good luck.
by MahaloMama 31st Oct 2011, 5:02pm
My 4 month old daughter has had horrible gas pains since birth, we tried everything, I just found this herbal remedy "Iberogast" we have been using it for the past 3 days and our little girl seems a lot more settled. We also let her sleep in her pram as it's where she seems most comfortable.
by mcsan 6th Dec 2010, 8:45am
My baby is 2 months today. He has lots of gas and has pain trying to pass the wind. I have tried everything on the market in SA and even had him at two doters. The one DR said i am feeding him to much and that i should no give him breast milk on demand. I am stretching the time periods of feeding now but this makes him very unhappy. I have been doing this for 2 weeks now and i can not see a change in the winds or pain. Nothing helps! Luckily he his only difficult during the day. At night he's fine. I want to ask if you also think that a person can over feed with breast milk?
by Gerda 7th Sep 2010, 12:01pm
although we are now told not to lay babies on their stomachs i found this helped with wind and griping pain, best to keep a good eye on them through the night though! always take health care advice however we all know what works best for our children. i also found that keeping calm helps my babys wind! it must be because she is relaxed too.
by loutom 12th Aug 2010, 10:48am
I think if none of the simple ideas work you should try Neocate as a formula as it should completely eliminate the possibility that the colic is related to food especially as cows milk is a major problem for many especially for asthma and allergies. Also breast milk will contain some components from the mother's diet. You could also try using cooled "bottled water" which was boiled as chlorine and fluoride in public water may be problematic. Neocate is expensive but some countries you can get it on perscription. My two sons (2 years and the youngest is 1 month) are on Neocate from the beginning as i have a cows milk allergy and they are doing brillant, they are rarely sick, no stomack cramps and no colic. There is alot of science against using cows milk on adults and infants. I would never give my children cows milk even if they were not allergic to cows milk. I have a PhD in science
by MartinC 18th May 2010, 5:21pm
I have a 3 month old baby and she has a very bad case of colic and i have tried everything from the colic drops to the Dr brown bottles and plenty of hot baths. I went to the doctor and he prescribed me a thicker formula called infamill and that didn't work either. I have tried every colic helping item in the shops and nothing seems to work i truly need some advise!!!
by amylindsay 14th May 2010, 5:36pm
Can any of you advice me what to do with colic in the infant? I tried medicaments etc, but Chris continued to cry .. I so sorry for him, I can not look at it, and do not want to cram his medication; / Maybe some unconventional ways? I read somewhere that sound of hairdryer helps,has you ever tried this?

I have found a CV with the sound on e-Bay called baby's dream... bt i don't know if it is good idea...
by marysia1983 14th May 2010, 5:25pm
hi evamum where did u get baby stomach ease tea iv never heard of it.
by heavenevaeh 14th May 2010, 4:18pm
I find that and a teaspoon of baby stomach ease tea helps the most, and unlike medicine it works without E numbers -
by evamum75 8th Feb 2010, 9:23am
thanks a lot for your useful guidance.
by atree88 16th Nov 2009, 9:36am
by leaxx 22nd Jul 2009, 9:32am
I found after reading the information on askbaby.com and trying the simple solutions to treat my baby's colic he settled down also i found that the car ride and his baby swing worked wonders thankyou
by dad123 24th Feb 2009, 9:44am
my baby is 7weeks old. he had colic. i tried infacol and it didnt work. i found dentinox colic drops and dr brown bottles helped. i sumtimes lay him on his stomach to sleep but always keep an eye on your baby while doing that. now my baby doesnt scream in pain anymore. so happy
by donna10 19th Dec 2008, 10:02am
re:reldred- my daughter is 2.5 months and at birth weighed 6lbs 4oz and now weighs in at 12lbs 2oz and she is healthy as ever. she would eat a little bit but often, i now put half a tablespoon of cereal in her 4oz bottles and it carries her 5 hours through the night followed by 2oz of formula. my nights have been smoother and gas has been less frequent.
by kellikay 9th Dec 2008, 8:45am
by ruth1980 10th Nov 2008, 9:47am
my daughter is 5 weeks tomorrow, we use the dr.browns bottles, the gripe water and the gas drops, i suggest adding the gas drops to the bottle when you feed, she is now eating 4-5oz every 3-4 hours, she weighed 5-8 when she was born, and at 3 weeks she weighed 7-11 and now shes about 9lbs, has anyone elses baby gained weight like that...
by reldred 10th Nov 2008, 9:47am
iv tried tthe infocol and the dr brown bottles and nothing works eny tips my baby is only 4 weeks old
by sheza 5th Nov 2008, 9:08am
having had my 3rd baby im now experiancing colic for the first time &havnt a clue what to do to help ease it for my baby,im open to any ideas
by nikkirance 4th Aug 2008, 9:04am
My 2nd child had colic and it lasted for 11 months. Nothing helped inculding the above recommended techniques. Now my 7 week old has colic as well and again, nothing is helping. We are on Nutramigen (a very expensive formula) and that doesn't work either. If anyone has any other suggestions, let me know ... I don't know if I can make it for 11 months again!
by sportmom 5th Oct 2007, 5:16pm

Community

Popular